Motorcyclists use social media to stay safe on 'trip of a lifetime' up northern highways

Daniel Quan-Watson of Edmonton drove his Harley Davidson up the Dempster Highway this week. He said he got a lot of useful information about the trip from people sharing their own experiences through social media. (Dez Loreen/CBC - image credit)

Motorcyclists are using social media to help each other stay safe on northern highways in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Users of the Dempster and Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highways say the conditions change frequently, between smooth riding and loose pea-like gravel that makes riding difficult even for seasoned motorcyclists.

Using groups on Facebook like the "Dempster Highway Adventure Riders," people are now posting their departure times and meeting up with other riders.

Riders in the group share information and ask questions about current conditions and types of equipment needed for the drive.

Tom Roozendal of Duncan, B.C., is a member of the Facebook group. He said the group can be helpful but it's important to remember where the information is coming from and to take it all in before making any decisions about remote travel.

"It's super helpful. I can't imagine 20 years ago not having a lot of information about the road conditions," said Roozendal.

"But it's kind of like a double-edged sword because you have all kinds of abilities of riders chiming in to that Facebook group and some people are like, 'It's a piece of cake, you can do 80 the whole way,' and other people were like, 'We turned around.'"

Roozendal and his travelling partner Natalie Jones made it to the Arctic Ocean but said the last 100 kilometres of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway were really rough and tested both experienced riders.

Jones said it is important to prepare for the trip and bring everything needed because of the limited services on the highways going north.

"Make sure you have good tires and proper tire-changing equipment, patches, tubes. We rescued four other riders now, so it's important that you're prepared," said Jones.

She also gave advice on how to ride a bike on the highways made of loose gravel.

"And I would say be comfortable standing on your bike and being loose. Relaxing. It's hard but you have to be able to do that," she added.

The online group has 9,400 members and is updated multiple times a day from visiting riders sharing their trips or asking questions about upcoming ones.

Daniel Quan-Watson of Edmonton said he got a lot of useful information from people's shared experiences in the group.

He trucked his bike to Dawson City, Yukon, and drove it up the Dempster Highway to Inuvik in one day, camping at Happy Valley campground in Inuvik for a night before heading back south.

"Make sure that if you're going to do it alone that you understand it's going to be an awful long way without seeing an awful lot of people. But if you can get past that, it is the trip of a lifetime," said Quan-Watson.

Quan-Watson said he planned on going up to Tuktoyaktuk but decided against it after reading about the conditions online.